How to harness the power of conscious boundary setting

How to harness the power of conscious boundary setting

Psychology can be a really useful life skill, and yet, it is usually not taught in schools. Some concepts around boundaries, or healthy versus co-dependent relationships, have become buzzwords.

Clarity on those concepts is something our guest brings to us in this interview!

Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist and a relationship and empowerment expert. For over 20 years, my approach has combined the best of practical psychology and eastern mindfulness practices – making complex psychological concepts accessible.

She says nobody was taught boundaries in school, at least nobody she knows! Yet, Psychology doesn’t have to be difficult to understand. 

So that is why Kristina asks: What are boundaries?

Clarity on boundaries 

According to Terri, boundaries are your rules of engagement: they let you know what is ok with you and what is not. They are comprised of your preferences, your limits, and your non-negotiables or deal-breakers. They are a language that helps you communicate your needs and desires. 

Unfortunately, many of us were raised and praised for being not assertive, making us vulnerable to a lack of healthy boundaries. For example, back in school examples, we can perceive that a teacher is crossing boundaries.

So, Kristina asks about what we should do in those situations, and Terri clarifies a very important distinction: boundaries are for people who are in an equal hierarchy of power. Teacher-pupil boundaries are not at the same level. We will be talking about people who are friends, co-workers, or couples.

At the same time, not all boundary requests are equal. We have preferences (which are important), desires (they are more potent, more important), and then we have deal breakers, non-negotiable things. Desires can be something like living in the country, in the city, or somewhere in between. 

Non-negotiable things are about really big red lines, such as not tolerating abuse. The real deal-breakers.

Terri urges us not to forget about preferences! Sharing preferences is important, too, because if not, you can become a high-functioning co-dependent person.

Kristina asks how to tell the difference between asserting yourself and being too rigid in your boundaries and wonders if that can get you a little bit lonely! She puts the example of being a feminist. How much is asserting this going to make me lose other people?

Terri flips the coin here: do you want to have a deep relationship with people that are not feminists or don’t understand your values?

As for the “bluntness” of asserting the boundary,it has to do with not being too porous or too rigid. It is about finding a balance that works for you. Being too porous means you do not have clear boundaries, and you allow others to cross them without consequence. Terri calls that the peacekeeprtype. 

Being too rigid is the “my way or the highway” type. It means that you don’t allow for compromise or understanding.

To know if you have healthy boundaries, you must also step into unconscious boundaries.

Unconscious boundaries may just mean that you need to have a conversation. Maybe you can find that you are making excuses for bad behavior; there are many ways to support stressed people, for example, without allowing for bad behavior. 

Terri gives us a tip to overcome the fear of boundary setting: stop wondering why are you surprised that this particular person crossed the line. Instead, start telling yourself: I have evidence that this person is trouble, and I thank myself for setting a boundary. 

Fear is what usually stops us from setting a boundary. We are afraid of losing someone or something.  Your resentment for people in your life will tell you where your need is unmet. For example, if you feel resentful toward a friend who constantly cancels plans, that means your need for reliability is not being met.

By setting a boundary and communicating your need for reliability, you can prevent future conflicts and maintain a healthy relationship.

Terri answers by saying a phrase that made me think a lot: “you can’t have the desire to please and have healthy boundaries. That can’t coexist.” Because your boundaries are healthy, not flexible.

One example is that when we start setting an important boundary for ourselves, we might over-explain to other people. For example, we might explain that we want to drink water when we want to go out because we have a health issue when the truth is we just want a glass of water! And we don’t need to explain.

So that is why Krisitina asks about tips for boundary setting and asserting yourself. 

One tip that Terri shares is asserting yourself by saying: I’d like to make a simple request. That is the start of setting an appropriate boundary that will avoid, in time, getting ourselves pissed off. This comes from Rosenberg, non-violent communication.

Clarity on co-dependency

Another huge issue is co-dependent relationships: Terri defines those as overly invested in relationships with your friends. High-functioning codependency is about being so competent and over-investing in anybody else’s relationships that you forget about anything else!

What is my responsibility, and what is the other person’s responsibility?

When you’re highly codependent, people are projects. Codependency is a compulsion actually to feel magnanimous, that you helped.

So, for example, if you are a mom, emotionally, it is very difficult not to want your child’s happiness! And, of course, you want them to succeed. What would be high-functioning codependency, in this case, is to do the things for them; let’s say, homework, for example.

Because you are solving problems for them, taking their autonomy.

This can also happen in friendships: when you are trying to solve your friend’s problem instead of letting them figure it out independently because you want to contribute to their well-being. 

Terri is concerned about co-dependency issues and has much more material on her website,

Episode resources:

• Terri Cole | Instagram

• Terri Cole | Facebook

• Terri Cole | LinkedIn

• Terri Cole | Website

Mar Mollet

I have been a personal growth enthusiast since I can remember! Mindvalley follower since 2015 and practitioner, I support with my writing female entrepreneurs and brands in the personal growth industry; I am a proud editor of this blog!

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